Lions should choose between Gold, Holdman

After plugging holes in the wide receiver, offensive line and corner positions, the Detroit Lions find themselves with a gaping hole in their linebacking corps.  Detroit knew they didn't want to overpay for gritty Barrett Green and allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent. Much more plus in-depth analysis inside.

(ALLEN PARK) - After plugging holes in the wide receiver, offensive line and corner positions, the Detroit Lions find themselves with a gaping hole in their linebacking corps.  Detroit knew they didn't want to overpay for gritty Barrett Green and allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent.

Green gave the Lions a shot at signing him, but elected to go to the New York Giants who welcomed his blazing speed and overlooked his mediocre production, signing him to a five-year $16 million deal with a $3 million signing bonus.  

``The Lions have a direction they want to go and I'm headed in another direction,'' said Green after signing with New York. "It's pretty disappointing, but this is a business and life goes on. I'm really looking forward to a fresh start with the Giants and their new coaching staff.''

But with Green gone, the Lions are left with a big hole at the weak side linebacker position.  It is unlikely that they will switch talented linebacker Boss Bailey to the position although his great speed and sure tackling would likely make him a natural fit.   Detroit will more likely move to add another speedy, but bigger player into the position.

Three still unsigned players would appear to fill the bill.  Edgerton Hartwell, a restricted free agent from the Baltimore Ravens would be the team's best bet.  Hartwell recorded 93 tackles in a part-time role with the Ravens, but after being tendered at the mid-level, the Lions would have to give up a first round pick to do the deal.  

The only way that's going to get done is if they trade the 6th overall pick for New England's two #1's and the fourth.  Then they might be able to afford to surrender one of two first rounders, but even that is far fetched.

Denver's Ian Gold is also a possibility.  One thing the Belleville, MI native had in abundance was speed, but that was prior to being cut down in mid-season with a torn ACL.  Gold is expected to be fully recovered in time for this season's training camp.   He's visited with New York and Washington but has yet to field a serious offer.  Lions head coach Steve Mariucci is interested in Gold.

"He's someone were interested in talking to," Mariucci said Tuesday.

Why not?  He appeared headed for a breakout season after recording 99 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 2002 before injury struck in the final year of his deal.  While initially expecting to return to Denver, the Broncos haven't made him a significant contract offer.   Would he welcome a return to his home state and his old University of Michigan stomping grounds the way Tai Streets did?  Likely, if the price was right.  At 25, Gold's best years should be ahead of him.

Fourth year linebacker Brandon Short is also a possibility.  Having essentially been replaced in the Giants lineup by free agent signee Carlos Emmons, Short recorded 87 tackles and 3.0 sacks in 2002 and followed that with a 75 tackle, 3.0 sack year in 2003.   He is better suited for the strong side and that makes him a long shot.

The best fit may be a player defensive coordinator Dick Jauron is very familiar with, strong side linebacker Warrick Holdman.  Holdman tailed off after getting a new deal from the Bears.  Holdman was a linebacker on the rise after recording 60, 73, than 109 tackles at the weak side position.   The Bears showed their faith in him by signing him to a bonus laden new deal, but Holdman played just four game in 2002 and had an injury plagued 2003 season where he totaled 71 tackles.  

The Bears made him a cap casualty and he is shopping for a new deal.  Detroit could plug him into the position and hope that he regains the form he showed in 2001 when he was healthy without spending much cash if he doesn't.  Detroit is unlikely to look at productive but aging Micheal Barrow simply because of his age, 33.  

But with a player this productive for this long, it's easy to consider making an exception to the "no one over 30 rule."  

There is no denying he is still a strong fiery presence and can still play despite slowing a step.  Last year was his most productive year statistically, wracking up an incredible 150 tackles and 2.5 sacks, his third consecutive year of over 100 tackles.   He is a middle linebacker by trade though and Detroit is probably not willing to try shuffling players to accommodate him.

The last option for Detroit is to take someone like Miami's Jonathan Vilma, Auburn's Karlos Dansby, Miami's D.J. Williams or Florida State's Michael Boulware early in the draft and hope for the best.  With a young building team, paired with a solid free agent signing, that might be the best move of all.

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